International Travel Packing Basics
The trip is booked, the wait is over and now the final hurdle, Packing. For many men (and women) this is a simple task of throwing clothes into a bag until the bag is full, there you have it, job done. But those methods might have worked when you were a student, where living in the same clothes on the beach for weeks was the accepted norm but no longer, planning and preparation are now required to get the job done.
I have put together a list of some practical advice, how best to pack your bags and get the most out of, or should I say most into a limited travel space.
Yes, this may seem a little old-fashioned but believe me, this will save you time and unnecessary stress during the packing process. It is important not only for peace of mind but, for some reason, seeing something on paper makes it easier to work with when it comes to details. When I am proofreading important documents, I am always astounded by the errors that I have missed when proofing something on a screen vs when I print it out and mark it with a pen. The same goes for when you do a packing check list, seeing something on paper gives you the edge when checking to see if you have got everything that will be required for your adventure.
Pro Tip: Check the blogs pertaining to the destination that you are travelling to as there might be some special requirements listed there that are essential to a successful stay.
Choose the Right Size:
Luggage is expensive, I understand that, but I can tell you that life becomes a lot easier when you have the right size luggage for the duration of the trip. It is also high time that the luggage that has been your faithful travel companion for the last 10 years- but looks more the 20 years- is replaced with something new and fully functional. This is not just to have new or modern luggage but newer versions have design improvements such as better compression straps, better 360 wheels for ease of movement and internal divisions to name just a few.
Airlines are tightening the enforcement of the size and weight of carry-on luggage as some travellers were severely abusing this allowance. I have heard stories that carry-on luggage has been at times heavier than the main luggage of passengers, which is not only impractical but also a safety risk should that bag fall from the overhead compartment. So be mindful that the correct size of checked luggage is becoming more important that it was in the past.
Before you even get to the packing stage, a colour palette selection should be a must. This means that it is practical to think of a colour scheme for the holiday that allows for mixing and matching of various garments throughout your journey. This not only makes it easier to choose an outfit in the mornings but also enables you to use, for instance, a pair of jeans or a cardigan top with more than just one outfit. This not only makes things a more flexible but helps reduce the amount of clothing required for your holiday duration.
Pro Tip: to protect your light-coloured clothing against colour transfer from the darker garments, pack the clothing inside out and together with other light colours if possible. If this is not possible, separate them using either compression bags or ziploc bags as described under the next heading.
This topic has had mixed reviews from many people. While using a vacuum at home to suck the air out of the bags might be a great idea, this will not last should there be even the slightest hole in the bag and unless you have access to a vacuum before your flight home, you will not be able to easily compress these bag again.
There are compression bags available that provide a small hand-pump that allows you to compress the bags before flying home again. So this is one option, however the idea of taking a pump with me in my luggage is hardly appealing.
I personally opt for rolling compression bags that do not require a pump or vacuum. The advantage of these is that this can be done anywhere I need to without additional equipment however again if there is a hole in the bag, it will re inflate again.
There is also the additional issue of light clothing creasing when rolling. If you are travelling with this type of clothing, it is a good suggestion to check with the hotel beforehand or at check-in if an iron is supplied with the room as creases with be inevitable no matter how hard you try.
Zip Lock Bags:
These bags are incredibly versatile and handy in keeping all the smaller items together. Things like charger cables that are spare or camera accessories that are not high value and won’t be needed till your arrival at the destination. I also find that putting all my socks and jocks in these bags makes life easy when I am scratching around in my bag for something while in transit. Being grouped logically together is just another practical tip that also assists when unpacking at your designation as one can also use these bags to separate dirty and clean clothing in the same compartment.
Pro Tip: separate your clothing into activity based groupings for easy access i.e. gym outfits, yoga outfits or beach wear. This will assit in keeping the items seperate when they have been used but are not ready for the wash yet.
Rolling vs Folding:
There are a few advantages of rolling clothing rather than folding them. Rolling not only reduces the space an item requires but also assists in crease reduction. When you fold a garment, there will be lines that are creased into it and when you take it out, these will be very obvious unless you press them out in your hotel room – lets face it, chores on holiday are not appealing. By rolling garments, these lines are not pressed into the garment so you look fresh and clean at your destination. No chores means more beach time.
Rolling enables you to better fit different sized items together. When folding garments flat, it requires a large flat profile which is difficult to pack into odd shaped spaces or in a way to reduce creasing. So roll the garments for a better fit and less hassle when unpacking.
Paper vs Plastic:
I am a die hard paper book lover full stop. However, I wrote an article about my experience when changing over to the Kindle Paperwhite for travel and the advantages I discovered as a result of this change. If you are trying to save space and weight in your luggage then this change-over is highly recommended. This will not only make your life less bulky but will also make you more flexible in what you read while chilling poolside soaking up the sun. Ditch the paper books for their electronic cousins even if it is just for your travels, you will not regret it.
I bought a hand held luggage scale from Samsonite before a trip to Thailand and this is one of the best choices I have made recently. It has a built in tape measure which comes in handy when planning if an item can fit in your bags or not. There are more advanced ones like those that have digital readouts and so on but quite frankly, I felt this a little unnecessary. I have not regretted this decision for a moment as this analogue scale has often helped my wife and I to redistribute the weight (often her hair styling equipment) between our bags and best of all, there is no risk that we have to do a last minute repack at check-in.
That’s a Wrap:
What is very important here is to:
- plan your requirements in advance,
- purchase some Ziploc bags to keep things together and;
- definitely weigh your luggage before you go to the airport to avoid last minute repacking stress.
Pro Tip: I see this often with people who have had to open their luggage during transit, shoes that touch your clothing. Our shoes come into contact with some pretty nasty stuff and touching clean clothing while in our luggage is unforgivable. Pack your shoes in proper sanitary shoe bags and if you don’t have these, plastic shopping bags will work as a temporary solution if for no other reason than to be hygienic. Your clothing will stay clean and fresher for longer with no dirt and germ transfer from your shoes will wreck your fresh look.
If you have any tips to make the packing experience better, leave me a comment below as I would love to hear from you.